It may not look like it to the casual fan, but college basketball is bigger than just UNC and Duke in the state of North Carolina. Schools like Wake Forest and NC State taking away some of the masses from those two fan bases and programs at App State, UNCW and UNC Ashville try to make some noise during March. One person who never bought into the blue-blooded basketball programs of the ACC is South Carolina freshman Tommy Corchiani. Instead, the Gamecock walk-on pledged his allegiance to the Wolfpack from an early age.
Corchiani’s father, Chris, had a storied careers at NC State. He became the first Division I player to surpass the 1,000 mark for assists, and he also ranks in the top 25 for all-time career assists. With a father like that, it seems as if Corchiani was destined for an event like the Final Four.
Growing up in North Carolina, Corchiani didn't like either Duke or UNC, and he never bought into any sort of fandom. But what he did buy into was playing the game itself.
“The basketball culture is extremely rich [in North Carolina],” Corchiani said. “Everyone loves the game, and you grow up dreaming of being a part of a [college] team. I hated both [UNC and Duke], but I was a big NC State fan. Most of my friends are UNC fans, and we always used to fight about stuff like that.”
However, things didn’t look so promising when Corchiani was trying to make it to the same level where his dad succeeded.
Going through the recruiting process, Corchiani didn’t have many choices. In fact, his lone option was to walk on at South Carolina — and that would mean crossing that Carolina border, but that wasn’t going to be any problem for Corchiani. He actually wanted to attend South Carolina to some extent, and his father helped him achieve his goal.
Corchiani’s father has never forced him to do anything he doesn’t want, but when Corchiani wanted to continue his basketball career after high school, his dad made sure he was going to be there for anything he might need.
“Just work hard and only do it if you love it,” Corchiani said. “[My dad] never really forced anything upon us, just do what you love. It’s crazy to be here. He’s been along for the ride with me from the beginning, so it’s awesome.”
Corchiani has not seen much time on the court this season, he has been thriving in the college basketball environment, and that love for the game has been growing with each South Carolina win.
It was a bit surreal when the Gamecocks took down the Duke Blue Devils, 88-81, in the second round, but at the same time that is always going to be one of Corchiani’s favorite memories.
“Growing up not liking Duke, that was a great atmosphere in Greenville to be a part of,” Corchiani said.
Thirteen — that’s the number Corchiani’s father wore at NC State, and it’s the number his family has adopted as somewhat of its lucky number. And it’s the number Corchiani is waiting for South Carolina head coach Frank Martin to call so he can play his first minutes in the NCAA Tournament, but the role of the bench isn’t something to be overlooked.
“The role on the bench is just as important as the people in the game,” said freshman Rakym Felder. “The bench is a big part of every team in every sport.”
For now, Corchiani has bragging rights over his father, and he can say he has been to the Final Four whereas his father only made it to the Sweet 16.
So while the Gamecocks are saying they’re taking it one game at a time, a win in the National Championship game against the Tar Heels would surely be the icing on the cake for Corchiani, but the freshman still has plenty of time left to make a name for himself — one that doesn’t hinge on his father’s legacy.
“I guess we got to win it all, but it’s definitely been a wild first year,” Corchiani said.